Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ch . . Ch . . Ch . . Changes . . .

While I may have kicked and screamed part of the way, I'm entering a new season of life. I've been mostly out of the workforce since C's birth almost 8 years ago (minus a few short-lived attempts at returning to work), but things just can't continue as they have. The economy is souring, DH's sales are dwindling, and our family's survival is on the line.

A few months ago, I set a goal for myself to earn X amount per month. I worked hard to find a few freelance writing opportunities and have 3 solid, regular opportunities a month. Those 3 jobs got me close to my goal, and one more would likely put me right where I wanted to be.

I was excited about this because I can work from home, around my schedule, and continue to homeschool. I didn't need any child care and while I've been burning the midnight oil to find the quiet to concentrate - I was able to sleep in most mornings.

Well, the economy kept getting worse and credit is tighter than ever. DH's income has been dropping between 30 and 40% the last couple years and it's still dropping. I realized that while I was proud of myself for getting so close to my goal - it just wasn't enough. We already live a frugal lifestyle, and groceries keep getting more expensive.

My desire was to continue homeschooling (at least this year. next year is unknown.) and remain the primary caretaker of my children. I recognized that my goal had to be at least double of my previous assumption. While this number isn't enough to support the family, it will go a long way to helping us meet our bills.

Today I met with a training company and have decided to return to desktop training. It felt so good to be in that classroom again (before C was born, I worked for a training company and was a top trainer.) I will be a part-time, contract trainer available two days a week. I requested the days I'd be available, so that DH could care for the kids one of the days and I'd only need care for Lydia the other since the boys would be at their enrichment program. Time will tell how busy I'll be, but I hope that my breadth of classes will keep me busy most of my available days.

I will continue my freelance writing gigs, and search for a couple more in case one or more disappear. If I also train at least 6 days/month, I should meet my goal.

I had to disband the mom's group I started at our parish 3 years ago. It was difficult to pull the plug, but I just don't have the time or energy to grow the group or give it the attention it needs. This season means pulling inward for our family and concentrating on our household and our needs.

I'll continue my blogs, because I enjoy them and love the relationships I've found. I also love doing reviews and sharing what I've learned. So, this blog won't be changing (much, I actually have some ideas about this site, but I think you'll like them!)

I'm excited (and nervous) and grateful. I'm calm and expectant and confident. I know it will be easier to sleep at night. I'm looking forward to the changes, and I plan to embrace them.

Monday, September 29, 2008

L at 17 months

This picture was taken yesterday, but what's a few hours when you're looking at a 17 month old?

Our neighbor is a photographer and wanted to try out his new holiday backdrop. I really hope the dress still fits in 3 months because I love it! The jacket comes off and the dress has the sweetest little cap sleeves.

What can I say about L this month? She's actually developed a little bit of stranger danger (finally) It's not extreme, but she comes back to me quickly when an adult crosses her path these days. All bets are off if there's a small child, however! She spent mass yesterday playing peekaboo with another little girl in front of us. By that, I mean L kept doing the motions and giggling, while the little girl stared at her and sucked her finger. She also loves the sign of peace and will try to run up and down the aisles shaking hands.

She's young, but she's started showing some signs that she may be interested in potty training. I really wasn't expecting it, but got her a red potty chair that arrived today. She seems to understand what it's for. I won't push it, but I figured I may as well be open to the possibility! And, since red is still her favorite color, I thought it was a good choice.

Next month she'll be a year and a half old! Nate says he can't remember a moment without his sister. I understand what he means.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

our van

Yesterday, I went shopping at a large store with my sister and my kids. We did our shopping, left the store through our usual door, and headed down the sidewalk in the parking lot that I had parked against. I like to park near sidewalks when possible because it's safer for the kids to walk between 2 rows of parked cars rather than between moving cars and parked cars.

We walked down the sidewalk, and I didn't see our van. I walked farther than I thought we parked, and I still didn't see our van. DH called to let me know he was home between calls, and I hung up with him abruptly because I couldn't find the van. I walked to the end of the parking lot and it was obvious that the van was not there!

I stood there in shock for a few moments before calling DH.
"The van is gone!"
"I think somebody stole the freaking van!"
"You're kidding!"
"I'll be right there!"

I asked my sister to stand in the middle of the parking lot in the 100 degree weather with my 3 kids while I went into the store to tell the management that someone stole my car and find out which police to call! (I know this may seem funny, but I live between 2 cities on a county island. The county island is policed by the county sheriff, while each city has it's own force. I didn't know exactly where the store was because it's a small slice that doesn't belong to either city.)

I went in, found someone and they paged a manager. I was frantic. I was happy that I had recently cleaned out the entire van, but couldn't believe I was losing my expensive cow print Britax car seat and all the library books we just checked out. I couldn't believe someone would want to steal a stupid minivan.

My husband drove up around now and I handed him the keys. He asked if I had pushed the panic button (on the keychain which makes the horn go off) and I said that I had but didn't hear anything. He got in his truck (remember, the one that was stolen a couple months ago!) and drove off. I waited for the manager.

DH called my cell phone. He said "Hey, do you hear that?" It was a car horn bleating. The manager came up to me and was ready to help. I looked at her and said "Um, I think I'm about to be very embarrassed."

YES, I was very embarrassed. The van was right where I parked it. Near the sidewalk by the MIDDLE door of the store. I was at one of the END doors of the store. The door I always park near, except for yesterday apparently.

We walked over to that door and I burst into tears when I saw DH. I really was sure the van had been stolen. Thankfully, it was just that I had a poor memory.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

another week almost over!

I'm sitting here when I should be in bed, but DH had calls a couple hours from home and he's not home yet. I never sleep well when I'm waiting for him to come home, so I may as well stay up and get some work done.

We had a good week at home this week. The boys zipped through their assignments and are done for the week, except for reading aloud. They did 4 days of work in 2 days, which is making me think they could be doing more on a regular basis. Each boy zipped through an entire math chapter this week, which amazed me just a bit.

I realized something today about my approach. I tend to let the kids figure things out for themselves -- offering help when needed -- but I like to let them discover things on their own. Many times, it doesn't seem like learning at all to them. I sometimes feel frustrated when they say "Oh, Mrs. V taught me how to do that!" and I think "Ok, she may have talked about it, but it's something you already knew how to do." (They attend an enrichment program once/week which is similar to a traditional school setting for that day.) They rarely realize the things I teach them, or guide them towards, but I've decided that I'm okay with that. (well, most days I am) They are both doing very well in their studies and I'm proud of them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Delicious Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin pie is a favorite around here, but we like any baked good with pumpkin in it! I posted the recipe for a pumpkin cake that's easy to bring along on a picnic over at Prevention.com.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

new hair

I got a haircut Sunday night and feel like a new person! I wasn't happy with my last haircut, and it didn't grow out very well, and I had been feeling frumpy. I've been going to the same stylist for years, but she's cut way back on her hours the last couple years and while I used to love the cuts she gave me, I have to admit that the last few weren't that great.

I decided to take a chance with someone new, and she did a very nice job. It's amazing how much better I feel with a decent haircut!

In other news, C finished an entire math chapter today. I had thought it would take a week, but he zipped through it and mastered the material. We have a busy week planned, so it actually works out pretty good for our schedule.

I found out this week that my brother and his wife are filing for divorce. They've been married about 2 1/2 years and nobody thought they should marry when they did. I'd link you back to the posts I wrote around his wedding, but it looks like I deleted them (probably for the best!) The hardest part for me has been explaining this to our boys. N said "So, she's just going to be TORN from our family??" She was a sweet girl and always good with our kids. Unfortunately she apparently wasn't very nice to my brother (and vice versa.)

I'll end with a funny about L. When my mom was in town, we had a little tea party at my sister's house. At one point, we clinked glasses and said "Cheers!" to celebrate some new decorating my sister and mom had done over there. L thought that was the most fun ever, and insists on "CHS CHS CHS" whenever she has a cup in her hand. She can't drink until someone clinks glasses with her. LOL!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Did your newborns have hair?

There's an old wives tale that heartburn during pregnancy means your newborn will be born with hair. I had heartburn, and all 3 of my kids were born with hair.

C had the most, but they all had hair which they did not lose in the early weeks after birth.

Do you think there's any truth to that old wives tale? Click on over and find out!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Love Your Blog & Meme

Alexa was kind enough to give me an "I Love Your Blog" award. (thank you, thank you!!) Along with it, I'm to answer the following questions with one word:

1. Where is your cell phone? counter
2. Where is your significant other? kitchen
3. Your hair color? brown
4. Your mother? Wisconsin
5. Your father? chatty
6. Your favorite thing? snuggling
7. Your dream last night? none
8. Your dream/goal? security
9. The room you’re in? office
10. Your hobby? handiwork
11. Your fear? death
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? 46
13. Where were you last night? bed
14. What you’re not? cruel
15. One of your wish-list items? room
16. Where you grew up? everywhere
17. The last thing you did? email
18. What are you wearing? dress
19. Your TV? big
20. Your pet? dog
21. Your computer? MacBook
22. Your mood? frustrated
23. Missing someone? family
24. Your car? minivan
25. Something you’re not wearing? socks
26. Favorite store? Target
27. Your summer? HOT
28. Love someone? passionately
29. Your favorite color? yellow
30. When is the last time you laughed? yesterday
31. Last time you cried? week

Now I'm to tag more bloggers with this award! Let's see . . .


This award/meme reminded me I needed to update this site's blogroll. Lots of new blogs listed over to the right!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fall Ball is Done!

It seems almost funny to call it "fall ball" because the last game was today and the temperatures are still over 100! The boys each received a nice plaque and N hit another ball out into the outfield. He truly loves the game of baseball, and has very good skills for his age. I don't think there was a ball he didn't hit this season!

I've already looked into spring leagues for him and he is excited about playing in a better league. The boys have been playing in a Parks & Rec league the last 4 years, and while it has been a great experience, he is ready for more structure and better players so that he can improve his game.

I just love this picture I took a few games ago. You can see the concentration on his face, his eye on the ball, and the force of his swing. I just ordered a 5x7 and plan to hang it in the hallway once it's painted and I can re-hang our wall of photographs.

Friday, September 19, 2008

million different directions

I'm being pulled into a million different directions right now, and I'm trying to do justice to at least half of them. LOL! Okay, actually, I'm trying to do justice to them all, which is why I want to pull my hair out!

We're currently trying to refinance our home and I knew the appraiser would be coming by. B called me at 5 last night to tell me the appraiser would be here at 9 this morning! Whoa! I thought I'd have a little more warning. I scrambled and ended up moving a bunch of clutter (like L's toys which were in the living room since she doesn't have a room!) into my mom's house next door. It is SO handy having that house there. I got the house mostly how I would've wanted it before the appraiser came this morning and we can only hope that the report is as favorable as we need it to be. I'd like to finish that extra room and we need just a little bit of help to do so. We also would like to consolidate our 2 loans into one to save a few dollars each month -- very important with the current economy and lack of work for B.

To top it all off, someone from my past decided to pop into my life again today. Every time I think they couldn't possibly barge into my life again -- DING DONG! Please pray for me -- you can't imagine what this contact does to me or how absolutely insane this person can act. I think St. Margaretha is for casting out devils and that's really what I think I need help with.

I'm looking forward to my weekend, though. The boys have their last baseball game and awards ceremony tomorrow morning and then in the afternoon we're attending the first of the family concert series of the Phoenix Symphony. This will be our 3rd season and the concerts are always enjoyable and well-performed.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tips for Calm Dogs

Over at Prevention, I wrote some tips for helping dogs stay calm.

I admit that writing the tips is much easier than implementing them! Oh, well, we can only keep trying!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I'm trying to create a couple different bio's for myself as I build more freelance writing jobs into my life. In addition, I'm trying to branch out and discover different topics to write about.

If you read here, could you do me a favor and leave a comment with 2 or 3 words that you think describe me, or things that I know? Some of my readers know me in real life, too -- but don't comment (hi, Kim!) If you don't want to comment here, feel free to email me. (Umm, private to Kim again, I owe you an email, I know I do!!)

Thanks! This will really help me out!

Christmas Planning

I've broken out my Excel spreadsheet and I'm starting to seriously shop for Christmas this year. My goal is to be finished by December 1, so I can enjoy Advent and not think about gifts at all.

I keep a spreadsheet for each Christmas that helps me stay organized and on budget. The spreadsheet has multiple pages -- Christmas card addresses, immediate family gifts, extended family and friends gifts, holiday extras (includes outings and extra decorations purchased), gifts received, cookie plan, holiday meal plan.

The Christmas card page is pretty self-explanatory. I keep an address list for everyone that we send a card to each year. I try to update it with new addresses throughout the year, but I'm not always successful.

The gift pages list the person (or family) name, the gift, whether or not it's been purchased, how much it cost, whether it's wrapped. If items need to be shipped, I also include the shipped date, and if it was shipped directly from a company.

The holiday extras page includes the cost of outings like Zoo Lights or a special holiday concert. It also includes any new decorations we may purchase. We really like to decorate outdoors, so I try to have a little in the budget for a new outdoor decoration. I also include the cost of cards and stamps on this page.

The gifts received page makes sure that we write out thank you notes promptly, and that we remember what to thank people for! I try to have thank you notes written by the middle of January at the very latest. The boys write their own (to their ability.) Some years I'll take photos of the kids with their gifts and have them printed at Shutterfly with a "thank you" border.

The cookie plan page allows me to plan out what cookies and other baked goods I want to make for the season. I include dates for those items that can be made and frozen ahead of time, and also plan for items we may give away. My sister usually helps with the holiday baking, so we work together to find weekends that are convenient for us both.

On the meal plan page, I plan meals for any special days -- like St. Nick's Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas, New Years Eve and New Years and the Epiphany. This menu plan allows me to watch for sales at the grocery store in the months/weeks leading up to Christmas so I can stretch our money as much as possible.

At the end of the season, I zero out all the individual items and save the spreadsheet with the next year's date. That way, I can update addresses if necessary, or keep track of gifts purchased. Amazon has started running some great sales in their Toy Outlet which made me think of this today. I picked up some cars for the boys and a musical toy for L for just over $10 (all items, shipped!)

I know some people like to shop at the last minute, but with an ever-growing family, I like to enjoy the peace of the season as much as possible. It also helps us out budget-wise by spreading the costs over a few months.

Do you plan for the holidays early, or do you like to do it all in December?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Trying Again

Last week my schedule went to pot. I decided to be flexible and while we continued homeschooling it was very laid back. Things came up during the week that meant we didn't have big chunks of time at home, so even the household chores fell behind. It didn't help that I got sick over the weekend and lost the opportunity to catch up that I planned.

It's all okay, though. This is just life! This morning, I'm working on some of my freelance work, rewriting my to-do list, and taking advantage of the fact that DH doesn't have any calls until late afternoon. This week will be a bit more hectic, but it'll be mostly at home, so I hope to head into next weekend caught up and ready to work on some additional projects.

It's a new week, and time to start over. I'm letting go of my frustrations and anxiety of last week and expecting this week to go well. Wish me luck!

Smoothie Love

We enjoy smoothies on a regular basis. I appreciate how quickly they can be thrown together and how nutritious they are when we make them at home. I recently posted one of my recipes over at Prevention for a simple strawberry-banana smoothie made with green tea.

There's no added sugar, but the fruit provides plenty of sweetness. The green tea adds anti-oxidants and there's no added sugar from juices that are sometimes used for extra liquid.

Now, if only I could find a self-cleaning blender!

Friday, September 12, 2008

stretch your brain

Over at Prevention, I blogged about playing one of the many brain games they host at their site.

If you're looking for a challenge and have a few minutes in your day, go check them out! They are fun and there are a bunch to choose from.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Review: The Responsibility Project

One of the things I have always loved about my husband is his willingness to help other people. He doesn't expect anything in return -- he helps people because he believes it's the right thing to do. If he can use his expertise or knowledge or skills to lend a helping hand, he's the first one to offer assistance. Just this week he gave up a good portion of his day off to help out a friend with a broken air conditioner. My boys simply said "Dad has to help him out because he can." even though they were sad to lose out on spending more time with him that day. We want our kids to realize that the world is bigger than just our family, and that we should use our talents to help others.

Liberty Mutual recently ran an ad campaign about helping others. You probably remember the commercials -- one person stops a person from being hit by a car, and then that person helped someone else, and it kept on going from person to person. They had such a positive response to the campaign that they created The Responsibility Project website.

At the website, you can watch a number of different thought-provoking videos. Many of the videos also have questions to ponder with your kids (or yourself!) I watched a few of them by myself, then asked the boys to watch some with me. I'm sharing one below that the boys at first found hilarious, but also made them think. We had a great conversation about doing things just because it's the right thing to do -- and how problems should be solved and not covered up.

I look forward to sharing more of the videos on the site with my boys and having more discussions. Because I'm all about trying to make the world a better place, and I hope my children have a hand in that as well.

We believe that the more people think and talk about responsibility, and even debate what it means, the more it can affect how we live our daily lives. And perhaps, in this small way, together, we can make the world just a little better. -- The Responsibility Project

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

16 months, a little late

I remembered the day L turned 16 months, but didn't do an update post. Since I took her in for her well-child visit today, I thought I'd do one today.

She's 22 lbs, 5 oz and a little over 30" tall, which puts her height and weight squarely at the 25th percentile. Her weight had been lagging behind her height for a long while, but it's caught up now.

She received one vaccination today, and while she flinched, she never cried out. My mom says I never cried at vaccinations either. I don't need to take her back until she's 2 (well, unless she gets sick enough to warrant a doctor visit before then.)

The doctor asked if she was drinking whole milk, and I responded that she was. I also volunteered that she was still breastfeeding. (WHY do I ever volunteer anything at the doctor's office?) He looked at me a bit shocked and said "Oh. Well, you need to cut that down. I don't ever want a patient to come in here at their 2 yr checkup and still breastfeeding." I just looked at him. I waited a few beats, then said "We're both perfectly fine and I don't see any reason to quit before she's ready." He then volunteered that in rural India some women breastfeed until 4 or 5 years of age! But he had only been breastfed for a year. I looked at him again, and responded "Well, I know women right here in town that breastfeed until their children are 4 or 5. I bet they just don't admit it to doctors like you."

Personally, I imagine L will wean sometime between now and her 2nd birthday. She's busy, she eats a lot, and she nurses 1-2 times a day right now. I was irritated by his attitude, however, and wondered how he'll feel if his wife decides to breastfeed their children past a year? (he doesn't have any children yet) Oh, I have more I could say about it, but this post is about my darling L.

She is a daredevil. She climbs the ladder of the playfort up and down with no problems whatsoever. She climbs on the tables, on chairs, on everything. She walks backward, forwards and is beginning to run. She loves when the boys chase her.

She understands what is asked of her perfectly. She has about 5 words that we know -- Up, Mom, Dad, Hi, and Shoes. She MUST wear shoes and is quite insistent whenever she wakes up that they are put back on her feet. She knows she can't go outside without shoes on, and she never wants to miss a chance to go outside.

She still loves music and is adding new steps to her dance routines daily. She will walk around with her hands on her hips and tapping her toes at any hint of music.

Those are the highlights I can think of. I'm sure there's more, but she'll be 17 months by the time I post this if I don't hit publish right now!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Apple Cake

This recipe takes more time than the apple pie recipe I linked last week, but it is worth it! My husband says that this apple cake is his favorite dessert -- and that's after more than a decade of desserts I've made!

Check out the recipe over at Prevention.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


My parents are headed back to WI on Tuesday. I think it will be most confusing for L, who has gotten used to walking across the yard to visit and will be completely shocked when the house is suddenly empty. Not only have my parents been there most of the summer, my sister has also been staying there (her house is about 5 miles away, but she moved in when my dad was sick and stayed after my mom came back), and my sister's cat and my parent's new puppy.

We'll all miss having them next door, and look forward to the day when they live there permanently. One plan has them moving here next fall, but we'll see what the economy and housing market does during the next year.

We're going to celebrate my dad's birthday today (it's actually tomorrow, but today is an easier day to celebrate), and then I'm sure tomorrow will be busy packing the truck for their long drive back.

We have a usual week planned for us -- the boys have baseball Monday, Wednesday & Saturday, enrichment program on Wednesday, L has a well-baby visit on Wednesday, we're FINALLY visiting a friend with a new baby on Thursday, and the first meeting of the year for my parish's mom's group is on Friday. Between that, we'll do our regular homeschooling, chores and errands.

During the week, DH will hopefully have time to work on the interior of our new room and I need to declutter and clean the house for an appraisal. We're hoping to refinance in the next little bit.

Right now, the baby is napping. I can hear DH snoring in front of a football game. The boys are playing their DS's. I am debating between doing some laundry, cleaning off my desk or scrubbing the kitchen floor. All 3 need to be done . . . and so I need to hop off the computer and get to it!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Novena to Our Lady of Good Remedy

Yes, I'm starting another novena. With all the financial woes around blog-land these days, I thought I'd share it here and offer up your intentions along with my own.

Our Lady of Good Remedy was credited with helping the Trinitarians purchase Christian slaves out of slavery and Mother Angelica has also asked for help to keep EWTN afloat.

Here's a link to the novena. I started tonight, and will continue through September 11. Feel free to start yours at a convenient time for you!

Elegant Aprons

Julie Moreno, a local, Catholic, homeschooling mom of four has started a new business venture selling adult and children's aprons! Check out her site -- The Elegant Apron -- and take a look at the adorable apron and potholder sets she has created!

Julie has loved to sew since she was a child, but didn't have much time to do it as she grew into an adult. Now that she's home with her children, she was looking for a creative outlet.

She saw some aprons, and decided to make one for her daughter. It came out so cute, she decided to market them. She approached a local boutique, who placed an order on the spot!

At her site, you can see a variety of different styles, but she is also open to custom orders. Wouldn't these make a great holiday gift? I just love the look of the ruffles.

She's currently running a grand opening special (until 9/8/08), so get your order in quick for an awesome deal! If you decide to buy one, let her know you heard about her here!

money saving linky love

I'm always on the lookout for ways to save money, and spend the money we have as carefully as possible. I've mentioned before how I use Amazon's wishlists to save money and today I thought I'd share some of my favorite blogs that help me save money. These blogs share deals, sales, freebies and tips to help us make the most of what we have!

Want Not -- Mir has a number of blogs, but this is her blog that I personally find most useful. Each day she posts multiple deals and sales that she finds. She also regularly gives away neat prizes.

Baby Cheapskate - This blog has great baby deals! You can count on them to post the best diaper and formula deals each week so you can stock up.

Freebies 4 Mom - The site's name says it all! She updates her site multiple times a day with great freebies.

Money Saving Mom
- This site provides great tips, tools and deals to help home economists everywhere stretch their dollars.

Do you have a favorite money-saving site? Please share it in the comments!


In August, I pledged to walk at least 4 days/week. I did great, until the last week of the month -- but I plan to get right back to it this month. Over at Prevention, I blogged about why I choose to walk for exercise.

If you use Digg or StumbleUpon, I'd appreciate it if you'd take a moment to digg or stumble my posts over there. There's a "Share This" link at the bottom of each post with quick links to many social networks. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Easy Summer Dessert

Looking for an easy summer dessert, that's also sugar-free? Head on over to my Prevention blog and check out the recipe for sugar-free, no bake apple pie!


Just a glimpse of one of the things that's been keeping me ridiculously busy around here! Yep, it's a new room! Our home is a tad too small for our growing family. Luckily, I married a very handy man so he's been hard at work closing in our back patio. When it's completed, we'll move the office into this new room and L will finally have her own room (she's been sharing ours since she was born.)

This is much less expensive than the addition we really wanted, and easier than trying to sell our house in this market. Other than darkening up my kitchen quite a bit, it should be a welcome change!
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